Qatari plans to expand capacity at one of its flagship stadiums for the 2022 World Cup that could make the facility with a price tag of $2 billion the most expensive of its kind.
Doha Sports City stadium, on paper an enormous entertainment destination with a mall and a hotel and media tower, is likely to see its planned capacity increased from 46,800 to 65,000 seats, according to Sports Business Journal.
The stadium’s cost would surpass the $1.3 billion price tag of that of London’s 90,000-seat Wembley Stadium and the Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, which is home to the city’s National Football League franchise and seats 80,000, the Journal quoted Dan Meis, the designer of Doha Sports City who is a senior principle at global sports architecture firm Populous.
Populous designed London’s 80,000-capacity Olympic Stadium that opened last month at a cost of $867 million.
Populous describes Doha Sports City as the “most flexible, technologically sophisticated and environmentally sustainable stadium the world has ever seen.”
Qatar is counting on sophisticated cooling technology to combat the Gulf state’s savage summer temperatures and protect players and fans from the oppressive heat.
The technology involves pumping cool air at the level of people’s ankles and neck in each row of seats that will descend and filter through the entire venue. Qatari officials say it will ensure that fans and players are comfortable and unaffected by the heat.
“A lot of the cost is the fact that it’s much more than a stadium,” the Journal quoted Mr. Meis as saying.
The stadium’s design is intended to resemble a Bedouin tent with a partially-retractable roof, retractable pitch and a transformable seating bowl.
Critics who have seen demonstrations of the cooling technology note that it is as yet unproven. John Hunt, a British sports journalist who spent a year in Qatar, said the solar-powered, heat exchanging technology worked well in a tiny space containing 500 seats.
“But the 2022 World Cup Final match is due to be played at the yet to be built 86,000-seat Lusail Iconic Arena in the planned city of Lusail to Doha’s north. That’s over 170 times as many seats to cool as in the demonstration, in a total area well over 170 times as large, and without a roof.
And this task needs to be repeated times 12. It’s not just a tall order, it’s currently impossible, and herein lies the rub,” Mr. Hunt said in a guest column in The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer, this reporter’s blog.
Doha Sports City is one of 12 stadiums Qatar is preparing for the World Cup. Nine of the stadiums will be built from scratch and three others, including Khalifa Stadium, will be expanded at a cost of more than $4 billion.
Qatar 2022 chief Hassan al-Thawadi said the first of the stadiums would be completed in 2015 at which point it will become clear whether the hi-tech, zero-carbon cooling system works in large facilities as well as it does in small spaces.
(James M. Dorsey, formerly of The Wall Street Journal, is a senior fellow at the Nanyang Technological University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies and the author of the blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer. He can be reached via email at: email@example.com)